Field of Ruts to Field of Dreams

Rams' head football coach John Lango points out some damage done

Gavilan College implements sponsorship programs to improve
football facility.
GILROY – From a distance, the Gavilan College football practice field looks like a usable and adequate facility for local student-athletes to run drills and work out on.

But a closer look tells the true story.

The deep ruts caused by wild pigs rushing down the hill and holes from gophers make it impossible for players to run sprints without twisting their ankle or injuring themselves in some way. To make matters even worse, cows got out of the ranch behind the college during the wet season, came down and grazed on the field for days before being rounded up.

Last year, the Gavilan gridmen were forced to move their practices to nearby Brownell Academy – which ultimately saved the season for the Rams.

“I just don’t think people knew how bad it really was,” said head football coach John Lango of the Gavilan field. “When the pigs came down and we didn’t have the manpower to fix it right away, it just got real bad.

“We still use it,” he added. “We find a little patch and use a little patch and that’s about it.”

All of the other Coast Conference colleges have their own practice facilities on campus – including Hartnell, Cabrillo, DeAnza, and Monterey Peninsula. Meanwhile, Gavilan remains the only school without practice facilities on campus.

“When you talk about recruiting and things like that, one of the things for us is we don’t have the facilities that other schools have,” Lango said. “We have the equipment that the other schools have as far as suiting our players up, but when it comes to our practice facility and our weight room, we’re not up to par with some of the other schools. That doesn’t bother us too much when we go to recruit, but it does bother our recruits.”

That’s why Gavilan College has set up a first-of-its-kind 12th Man Club – dedicated solely to the betterment of the Rams’ football program.

“Those funds are dedicated to renovating the football field and getting a football stadium here on campus,” Athletic Director Ron Hannon said. “The field is still in same shape in was last spring. Right now, we’re not planning on playing on this facility.”

State budget cuts have severely hindered the renovation process – which leaves the football team in the same predicament as last season. The Rams are scheduled to once again practice at Brownell Academy and play home games at either Gilroy, Live Oak or San Benito High Schools.

Hartnell also plays its home games at a local high school with a new turf field – but Cabrillo, DeAnza, and Monterey all have their own football stadiums on campus.

“Our goal is to ultimately build a football stadium that not only will benefit our student-athletes, but the entire community as a whole,” Hannon said. “Plans to move forward with this idea are on going, but addressing the immediate need of bringing football back to Gavilan College is our priority.”

The Rams’ 12th Man Club will help renovate the existing field area to new safety standards as well as level the football playing field and replace it with much-needed new sod, and install a new perimeter fencing around the entire complex.

“So (our practice facility) is here. It’s on our campus. It’s a part of us, not another school,” said sophomore lineman Travis England, of Gilroy, about the importance of getting the field renovated. “We just go in and practice anywhere, anytime. But it would be nice to practice here.”

If you have any questions regarding the Rams 12th Man Club, please contact Ken Berry, Director of Corporate Sponsorships for Rams Athletics, at 846-4936.

“The biggest thing for us is you bring a student-athlete on this campus and you bring them out here right now, this is beautiful,” said Lango as he stood on the football field. “It’s not like San Jose or wherever they are at because it’s just beautiful out here. So the whole idea is let’s get them out here to see what our campus is like. That’s why it’s super important for us to have this field done.”

The first stage is to get a fence around the field so no more wild pigs or gophers or cows can come down the hill and cause damage to the field. In addition, the entire field needs to be leveled off and new sod must be put in to ensure player safety.

“Ron’s big thing is to get a stadium here. I’d love to play Saturday afternoon games here. Right now, the whole idea is to get us practicing here,” said Lango, as he walked across the field pointing out the numerous and dangerous ruts. “I know our administration is trying extremely hard to get it done. But it’s just with the budget cuts right now we have to be creative and get something out here. It’s really important for us.”

Safety remains the top priority. If renovations are not done to the field, the team will not practice on campus.

“Our kids have to come here (Gavilan) to get taped up and then go to the practice facility (Brownell) and then our trainer gets there whenever she can because she has to take care of soccer, too,” Lango said. “We’ve had one student-athlete get into an accident on their way from here to there. Safety-wise, it’s a huge consideration for us to make sure we are practicing on this facility.”

Along with the 12th Man Club, Gavilan College has integrated several sponsorship programs to benefit all of its sports teams. There are sponsorships from as little as $100 for its Jump Start Club to as much as $3,000 for its Century Club. (see box for details on each)

“We’re trying to raise money to support all of our athletic programs,” Hannon said. “We’re trying to build partnerships with community members both individually and corporately… What we’re hoping is the community is going to take a tight grab on this program and call it their athletic program.”

Facility improvements include renovation of the football field, enhancing the soccer complex, repairing the Bud Ottmar Memorial Gymnasium, upgrading the baseball facility, and completion of the softball facility upgrade project. The sponsorships will also help with recruitment and retention of student-athletes.

Before the start of the spring season, the Gavilan College softball program received a more than $8,000 grant from Calpine to completely renovate the softball diamond. There are now new dugouts, a storage facility, infield soil, and a batting cage. Once the ball got rolling, other local businesses helped out – lightening the financial burden and making the softball facility one of the best in the conference.

“We’re hoping it will become a snowball effect here,” Hannon said. “This is the beginning of it. We’re fortunate to live in an area where some of the corporate community members that are housed here are financially in a position to make this happen for us.”

Hannon envisions building a 2,000-5,000 seating capacity football stadium with a press box and scoreboard and, eventually, lights so night games can be played. The athletic director also wants the facility to be used for other sports at the college, high school, and community level.

“I feel deep down inside that our administration is really trying to do it, but it’s just real difficult right now because of budget cuts,” Lango said. “They haven’t given up and I know we haven’t given up and I think it’s going to get done some how, some way.”

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